Four key messages about EU employees and Brexit

The recent vote in the House of Commons to reject the Withdrawal Agreement may result in additional concern for universities and their EU staff.

Based on our experience of providing support to institutions in this area, including running briefing sessions for EU nationals, we think there are four key messages to get across:

  • Reassurance– the Government has confirmed that, even in a no deal scenario, it will run the Settlement Scheme (the Scheme that will effectively protect the rights of EU nationals currently residing in the UK) for EU nationals and their family members who are residing in the UK on or before 29 March 2019 (i.e. Brexit date). So irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the rights of EU nationals and their family members currently in the UK should be preserved.  The Government has also confirmed this week that no fee will be payable for applications under the Settlement Scheme.  For applications made during the current pilot phase which opened on 21 January, a £65 fee will still be payable (to be later reimbursed).    
  • Recruitment– the risk of a no-deal Brexit may have increased.  It is not clear what immigration system the Government will operate for EU nationals who wish to come into the UK from 30 March 2019 in a no deal scenario, although it is likely that existing rules will apply in the short-term.  Importantly, the transition period that would run until 31 December 2020 which has been agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement would not apply. Institutions that have identified a specific EU national for a role, or who have recruitment processes involving EU nationals underway, should where practicable plan to ensure that EU nationals are appointed and resident in the UK by 29 March 2019, or as soon as possible thereafter, in case of a no-deal Brexit.
  • Workforce planning– it is sensible for institutions to identify the areas where they tend to recruit a significant number of EU nationals (including lower skilled roles), the potential risks associated with additional recruitment barriers and costs which may come into play, and actions that can be taken to mitigate these risks.
  • Sponsor licence applications and compliance – based on the recent Immigration White Paper, it seems likely that the future immigration system will involve an extension in some form of the current points based system to EU nationals. The consequences for institutions of having their sponsor licence revoked or downgraded as a result of compliance failures may be prove to be more serious in the post-Brexit world. So ensuring a high level of compliance may be more important than ever.

The Mills & Reeve immigration team can help in advising on Brexit-related immigration issues, providing support for EU staff, and assisting with sponsor licence issues. Please get in touch with Alex Russell if your institution requires any advice in this area.

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